Passing on the Crown

Last Thursday Shirley Pickford, from Oakenholt in Flintshire was announced as the 2010 winner of The Microsoft Remote Worker Award at Remote Employment Remote Worker Awards held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

James McCarthy from Microsoft and Paula Wynne from Remote Employment (right) celebrate with Shirley Pickford after she won The Microsoft Remote Worker Award.

Many of you will know that to my surprise I won this award in 2009. Winning the award has significantly improved the profile of my remote worker work and has helped me spread the word, the prizes weren’t bad either! 😉

Shirley is a very worthy successor. She is a university lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University (based in Cambridge and Chelmsford) but she never actually meets her students. Shirley’s desk is in Oakenholt, Flint, and she tutors undergraduates using the Internet. All the students are in work, so the course is designed to fit around their working lives. Shirley uses the flexibility of remote work to combine a challenging profession with family commitments, mirroring the experience of her students.

A typical working day for Shirley starts by greeting colleagues in an online forum. Morning coffee is enjoyed with a phone call to remote lecturers in Liverpool, Spain or Newry to discuss issues raised by students. There are video conferences with university staff based on campus. Shirley advises students in web-based discussions.

Remote working has been a particular advantage for Shirley and for her employers during a difficult year. Swine flu struck in the first weeks of the academic year and although Shirley needed a few days off work, she did not need to worry about passing it on to colleagues or students. She was also able to care for a sister frail with cancer who needed companionship by working from home. A major project to deliver new courses was largely uninterrupted by domestic events and student feedback at the end of the academic year has demonstrated success.

Shirley explains on the Remote Employment Web site: “I’ve enjoyed working remotely as a lecturer, keeping in touch with students through online discussions and using everything from blogs to wikis to publish journeys in learning. I can set up an office anywhere by opening my laptop. Everybody wins in managing projects – me, my students, colleagues and my employer.”

The Judges were impressed with the benefits remote working gives to both her and her employer, Anglia Ruskin University. Exploring the use of new technologies and social media to work with staff and students has increased Shirley’s productive work time. Remote lecturing has its rewards communicating and collaborating with people, regardless of geographical location. The support of Anglia Ruskin University has been crucial in developing an approach that is successful for Shirley and her students.

Shirley said: “It’s thrilling to gain recognition of developments in remote working for myself and for Anglia Ruskin University. I am so excited to be credited for the new innovative ways in which remote working contributes to my student’s well being and learning.

Congratulations to Shirley and hope you enjoy holding the crown as much as I did!